I guess voice chat is hard to build since no MMO have built it in and gotten people to primarily use it. People still prefer Teamspeak and Ventrillo. Blizzard said they'd go back to it to make it better, but they never did. I'm just going to assume built-in voice chat is a low priority for BW since everyone already uses Vent instead and it's hard to do it 'right' in an MMO.
The inherant problem with built in voice chat systems is that the big two (ventrillo and teamspeak) are so wide spread that devoting the amount of resources required to make it usable and viable cannot be justified. Even WoW didn't spend the time or money to make a system that is seamless or low impact enough to compete and they were already rolling around in billions of dollars...
Will TOR have voice chat? Probably after launch... will anyone use it? Not enough to justify having it
The WoW in-game voice chat blows. My guild used to use it when our horribly unreliable Vent server was down. But it took all kinds of workarounds to get it to work. Sometimes people had to re-log in. Sometimes addons had to be disabled. Sometimes it would just stop working for someone and they wouldn't even realize it for several minutes, they just thought it was quiet, lol. We finally got a new Vent server.
Does Warhammer or Rift have built in voice chat? Have any of the newer games had it? I do think it's probably not worth the development effort involved considering the widespread use of Vent and similar external programs.
I actually think a game which had some sort of built in Ventrilo integration would do far better for itself. Nothing fancy, just a window you could open ingame and see your ventrilo window without having to alt tab - maybe re-skinned to match the UI theme of the game.
Options for notifications, a little box to pop up with the name of who is transmitting, when people join/leave your channel/server.
Honestly I agree with Bioware not wanting the hassle or headache of in game voice chat. Other companies already do it much better why try and reinvent the wheel?
We use Mumble in TIG, and it has a nice overlay system that you never need to have a popup window to see who is transmitting. Also Mumble has the ability to be reskined which our great TIG Studio did with a glorious Imperial theme.
There's really not a reason to include a chat function in game. I'd be upset if Bioware took the time to include voice chat, when instead they could have worked on add-on implementation, or something people actually use.
I think developers are realizing that when it comes to VoIP "If it isn't broke, don't fix it" TS3 and Vent (and Mumble even) are the places to be these days and you don't have to be in game to use them...
LoTROs in-game voice is used a fair bit, despite it's problems...but then again it IS vent...just without pretty much any customization.
Anyways, I too recently found Mumble....so I've kissed everything else goodbye.
For those that don't know, Mumble is a free and open source voice chat, with significantly lower resource and bandwidth demands, and lower latency, than Vent. The sound quality is also far superior, and everyones voices are fairly equalized, so no having to set different volumes for each person. As mentioned, Mumble also has an overlay that works in-game, and is fully skinable.
But wait, that's not all:) Murmur, the server portion of Mumble, is also free and open source. You can run your own murmur server with unlimited users, for free. For those that don't have a webhost, you can usually get one for less than the ridiculous cost of most vent servers! Personally, I use hostmonster.com and it works fine...but I haven't really used anyone else, so I can't compare.
Best of all, Mumble has a large amount of develop still on going. New features are added quite a bit, things like priority speakers ( when that person speaks, everyone else is quieted. Great for hectic PVP. ), and positional audio ( using plugins for games, it can get your position, and the position of others, and attenuate the sound accordingly. Interesting for surround sound, so you can tell where the person speaking is standing...though IMO more fluff than useful. )
If you aren't tech savvy enough to host yourself ( it does take a bit of work ), and don't know someone that is, there are of course mumble hosts that'll charge you for the service ( I would imagine it'd be cheaper than vent still, since they don't have to pay the licensing fees and such. )
Voice chat would run into a lot of problems in TOR. In WoW voices aren't that important, with only a few major characters having voices, and those for non-essential lines. But in TOR every quest you do will have voicework, so Voice Chat would ruin that unless maybe you were on a same-class alt and had heard all the quests before, otherwise no voice chat while leveling. Ditto Flashpoints, with all the conversations, voice chat would just be yelling over the conversations and making a cacophony of noise. So Voice Chat would only be for very specific circumstances barring you muting the Voice Chat every time you talk to any npc in the game. So text chat would be much more beneficial for talking, since you can't type louder than NPCs can talk.
Maybe, but the easiest way to solve that is to mute players when characters on screen are talking. Then when the VO pauses to wait for the players' choices, allow them to speak and discuss their options. I have no idea how difficult or easy that would be though.